Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Little Richard Makes Peace

By David Luhrssen
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A funny thing about the ‘60s was that it made some folks miss the ‘50s. One of the starting points of the era’s nostalgic “rock’n’roll revival” was the show stopping performance documented in Little Richard: Live at theToronto Peace Festival 1969. The film by D.A. Pennebaker (Don’t Look Back, Monterey Pop) is out in March on DVD.

With his piled-high pompadour and trace of mascara, his glittery silver vest, Little Richard looked like Prince 20 years early. And 15 years before the Toronto gig he was already the wildest man in rock’n’roll, shredding all logic with the brace of furious hits—“Tutti-Frutti,” “Rip it Up,” “Keep a Knockin’”—played that night in Toronto. A dynamic performer still at the top of his game, Richard was radiant behind his pumping piano, surrounded by an ace band that hadn’t forgotten the roots of rock in the gospel church and the brothel.

The Toronto Peace Festival was Canada’s Woodstock. Given the sensible nature of its citizenry, it was a peaceful and relatively orderly affair with fans waving the Maple Leaf flag overhead. Even the brown acid probably passed a government safety test.

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